Jesus makes all the difference

In this week when we are celebrating Valentine’s Day I have suddenly realised that it was 68 years ago that I sent Caroline my first Valentine’s card. Alas, that request to ‘be my Valentine’ did not seem to have much impact on her. However, as the months went by she warmed to me and in May 1966 we became engaged, the wedding taking place on 26 August 1967.

My father, who was the preacher at the wedding, probably shocked everybody when he took as his text the words of Mary to the servants at the wedding of Cana: “Whatever he tells you, do it” (John 2.5). However, it quickly became clear that he was not urging Caroline to obey me whatever. Rather the thrust of the sermon was that both of us needed to do whatever Jesus told us to do. To quote my father:

The wedding at Cana has been a witness to the way God works in the lives of common people through Christ. This day is one for the glory of God in your lives, for you acknowledge before all your trust in God and intention to live together for his sake. Let it be the beginning of a lifelong marriage that shall provide an unbroken testimony to the love and power of God in your home… It will be given if you heed the word of Mary to the servants at the Cana wedding: ‘Whatever he says to you, do it’. I suggest that you take these words as a motto for your marriage…. Let your shared life be governed by obedience to Christ; God will then be glorified in you, and salvation brought to multitudes as yet unknown.

In other words, whenever we put Jesus first in our lives, he makes the difference. Over the years I have often preached on the story of Jesus turning water into into wine. It provides a great opportunity to tell of the difference that Jesus can make not only to newly married couples, but also to every member of the congregation.

In this regard, whenever couples come to me to ask to be married in church, I always ask them: “Why do you want to be married in church? What’s special about a church wedding?”  I shall never forget the honesty of one bride-to-be:

I want to get married in church because I love dressing up. I want to be able to dress up in a beautiful white dress and walk down the aisle for all to see.

But dressing up in a white dress in not peculiar to a church wedding. Many brides dress up in a white dress, for a wedding conducted by the registrar. Nor is there any reason why a bride should dress up in white for a church wedding – one of our friends came to church to be married in a dress as scarlet as the PhD robe I normally wear at weddings. What then is different between a church wedding and a wedding in the register office? Is it that in God’s sight couples are only truly married when they get married in church? Of course not. In God’s sight a marriage contracted in a register office is as valid as a marriage contracted in a church. After all, the institution of marriage is not something which is peculiar to church – for marriage existed long before the church.

So what then is the difference? Is it that in church we are making our vows in God’s sight? That argument presupposes that God is limited to church buildings – that the only things which he sees are things which take place in church. That clearly is a nonsense. The fact is that the vows a couple make in a register office are as much in God’s sight as they are when made in a church. No, the difference between a church wedding and a register office is that when a couple come to church to get married, they come seeking God’s blessing upon their union. In a world where so many marriages break down and where there is so much unhappiness in many a marriage, there is so much to be said for knowing God’s blessing upon one’s life-together.

That is why people come to church to get married. They come not to experience water turning into wine, even although that would dramatically cut the cost of the reception, but to discover the difference that Jesus can make to their life together. They want him to transform what could otherwise be a legal partnership into a relationship which sparkles because Jesus is present.

Yes, Jesus can and will make all the difference in our lives. This is the good news we may experience. This is the good news we have to share.


  1. Thanks for this Paul
    As my wife and I come to our 45th anniversary in a few weeks I found your comments interesting and yes true.
    I like the passage in John 2
    Used it not long ago at an induction!
    Not that the church should obey the minister- if only!
    But because the partnership does indeed bring Gods blessing into s community.
    I like if that the servants have to fill the jars- no hosepipe I suspect but hard days carrying to and fro
    So much in this story
    Anyhow God less you

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